Coot Hill and Big Hollow
Some time ago Chris Maron, CATS' Executive Director, told me that this spot has a great view--one that's different from the vantage points I'm used to. He was absolutely right. Located in Crown Point, Coot Hill is a new trail on the Champlain Area Trails map. With a name like Coot Hill I had to check out this destination.
Getting to Coot Hill
From Port Henry I traveled south on Rte 22 to Edgemont Road and headed up the hill. Turning left on Harry Allen Road, left again on County Rte 7 and left again on the Lang Road I arrived at the dirt road that leads to the trailhead. I wasn't completely prepared for the condition of the road and glad I had good clearance. The first half mile or so of Lang Road is maintained for a small engine shop and one home but after that it's unmaintained. The unmaintained part will make a great ski trail in winter to get to the trailhead itself.
Traveling along the road, it's clear that this area was once a much busier place. There is a long section of stone wall that must have been built by a farmer clearing fields. Previous logging was evident but the forest is mature and has a full canopy that was singing with birds on my early morning expedition.
The dirt road travels back into the now-woods to a small cemetery called Lang Cemetery. There lies John Laing. I can't explain the spelling variance. John is joined by members of the McGuinness, Beers and Winters families who I learned about a little later in the day. Some of the graves date back 150 years. I was irritated to see a gun shot through the marker on a veteran's grave--some folks really lack respect. But the cemetery is in a nice spot beneath giant maples and an oak. The grave of a woman named Leafy Winters caught my attention. Interesting name.
Although the biggest trail from the cemetery goes straight, the trail I followed leads off to the left. This route has been used by trucks or 4-wheelers and there were some deep puddles but the track is wide and there is plenty of space. In about fifteen minutes I followed a few turns and headed up to the top of the hill. It was a perfect distance for a quick look and would be a great hike for my dog who can't make the long, steep hikes any more.
Great View at the Summit
The summit is a wide, dry place where at some point a circle was made for vehicles to turn around. The view was great and as promised, delivered a new angle on the many other views I have seen of the Champlain Valley. With a little exploring I found all sorts of summer plants blooming and found a healthy show of sweet fern, a plant with very nice foliage that curls and turns beautiful colors in the fall. The array of trees promised nice fall color too--white and red oak, sugar maple, hickory and shadbush.
On a map Coot Hill sits due east of the intersection of Rte 22 and Rte 185 in Crown Point but there isn't access to the summit from that side. Just south of the ledge that serves as the summit there is a DEEP ravine which is called Big Hollow. When Chris Maron from CATS told me about Coot Hill he said there had been an accident some 15 or so years ago when a car went over the edge of the cliff into the ravine. A young couple had been caught up in the moment and didn't pay attention to the brakes.
I found myself eye to eye with ravens who were disturbed by my early morning arrival. They seemed to have a nest on the far side of the ravine and called loudly back and forth, apparently communicating their dissatisfaction. Big Hollow looks as though it was a huge gap in the land that was expanded by mining--there is a slope covered with rocky talus at one end.
One view from the summit looks south toward Crown Point and Ticonderoga. The farm fields looked green and beautiful, just the way we like them. Another view looks back over your shoulder toward the High Peaks. A third looks east toward Snake Mountain in Vermont, with Bulwagga Bay in the foreground.
The view and the flora kept me busy for some time but I headed back down the hill with a mind-ful of questions. Later I contacted friends who live at the intersection on Rte 22 at the base of the mountain. Jeris and Dale French have lived there for years and I knew they'd have answers. An interesting conversation with Dale taught me that Coot Hill had once been a thriving community. It was settled around 1800 by his ancestors. His grandfather had been Robert Lang who built a farmhouse just above the cemetery. The whole area was open fields until the 1950's-60's. The Beers and Spaulding families lived near the Langs and Butler's Store was the general store for the area.
History lesson of Coot Hill
Dale French said there had been a dance hall at the top of the mountain but the fun ended when the owner shot his wife over a dispute. He also told me the car that went over the edge is still there, and furthermore, 100 years ago there had been another accident. A dapple-gray horse and buggy had gone over when a woman was picking blueberries. She wasn't in the buggy and was fine but the horse didn't fare well. Both stories give fair warning to hikers and their dogs who are curious about the edge.
Dale still cuts wood from the mountain but he rarely climbs up to see the view. The trail that goes up from the east is rocky and rough. The times have changed and the forest is grown in where he remembers his childhood. But Lang Road to the trailhead is absolutely worth the detour from Rte 22. Champlain Area Trails has found another gem of a place for people to climb. Thanks to the owner for making this quick hike an easy leg-stretch for a curious adventurer.